Recently, I conducted an interview with filmmaker Ok-Hee, whom I met at a screening after being inspired by her work. During the beginning of our interview, she blew me away with her dedication to making art about social issues that she is passionate about. Whether it’s talking about migration, political injustices, or human rights, she creates because she is compelled to.
After talking about her work for a while, Ok-Hee turned the tables. “I want to know about you,” she said. She asked about my writing, my creative interests, and my goals. Our “interview” ended up being more like a two-way conversation between two adults with something to bring to the table.
That encounter left me energized to pursue a creative life and stand up for my beliefs. And afterwards, it hit me that I had spoken seriously about my creative goals to someone outside of my immediate circle for the first time. Although I knew I wanted to write and live a life of creative output, I had never verbalized it before to someone who didn’t already know me well.
Immediately, I began to see Ok-Hee as a mentor: personally, politically, and artistically. However, I also realized that something was lacking in my own artistic practice: the drive to create because I need to speak up for something that I believe in.
Our conversation made me realize that my own social circle is a bubble – I’m surrounded by people close to me in age with similar backgrounds (middle class, privileged, university students). We share a lot of the same political attitudes and interests. And when I’m with my friends, I take the bubble for granted. I don’t have to stand up for my beliefs or justify my goals because my views are mirrored by my friends’.
This bubble is comforting, but it makes me complacent. I can claim to be an intersectional feminist, I can claim political views, and I can claim to be an artist. But my impact usually stays within the bubble. Often, all these beliefs of mine barely even make it out of my own head. Because I rarely have my opinions challenged, I never have to justify my creative aspirations or artistic goals.
This idea of the bubble has really been pulling at me lately. And I want to do something about it. I believe that my art and my political beliefs are intertwined. They are part of my identity. So how do I reconcile them and stand up for both?
First, I want to expand my social circle beyond people who are just like me. To be more open-minded when it comes to making connections with others. To engage with people who hold different identities and have their own set of life experiences. And I hope to dig deep: exchanging knowledge, challenging my views, and justifying my intentions. I want mentors who will push me in the right ways, so that I can in turn become a mentor for somebody else in the future.
Next, I need to take my creative work seriously. The goal is to create things I’m proud of sharing – work that initiates conversation and critical thought, that reflects my beliefs without stepping over the voices of others. And this means vocally supporting other artists more, too. How can I expect the recognition of others without giving them the respect that they deserve?
Finally (and most importantly), I have to act on these beliefs and speak out. I want to reconcile my creative output and my politics, using them to strengthen one another. I want to use these words as a manifesto, an instruction manual for escaping my bubble.
Some day in the future, I’ll come back to these promises and see that I have acted upon them. I can only hope that my own work, and maybe even the world, might be better off as a result.